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Lauren D. Costine PhD will be a Keynote Speaker at the Finding Freedom Symposium.

Michael’s House is thrilled about your participation for the first annual Finding Freedom Symposium. This weekend is about you. Our sincere hope is to host an atmosphere that fosters ongoing small-group conversations towards identifying best-practices in addiction treatment for LGBTQ patients with co-occurring disorders. We are excited you are actively participating in this discussion to develop the 2016 Symposium White Paper and contribute to ongoing research to support this population.

We invite you to arrive, relax, breathe in our beautiful desert air, listen to all the great lectures, laugh and connect with your peers. On Saturday afternoon(presenters), we hope you will roll up your sleeves, lean in to a topic group of your choosing and share your voice of experience. It is our hope that each topic workgroup will engage in ongoing communication through the coming year, and present their findings at the next Finding Freedom Symposium. Save the date: January 14-15, 2017. We will be looking for moderators for these ongoing group discussions.

Please also join us, with a guest for a night of extravagance on Saturday Night at 6:30pm for dinner and a Show at Oscars Carnival Cabaret. This event is possible thanks to Foundations Recovery Network Outpatients Treatment Services including: San Diego, San Francisco, Canyons at Santa Monica, and Michael’s House and Foundations Business Development Team, and our UHS partner, The Pride Institute. Please RSVP to Renee for Saturday Night, as space will be limited to 100 people.

Your time is precious. We value you, and your commitment to the conference, your profession and the clients you serve. Please continue to share on FB with your friends and associates. Please join our FB Group for ongoing discussion.

Warmly, Renee Renee Baribea Community Outreach and Marketing Michael’s House Outpatient Services 515 N Palm Canyon Dr Palm Springs, CA 92260 760-464-2138

Ten years ago the first edition of Cruise Control: Understanding Sex Addiction in Gay Men was published in response to what I viewed as a meaningful missing puzzle piece for gay men to learn and grow. At that time there were few if any self-help books specific to gay men. Thus, gay men had to interpret their challenges and experiences through the written lens of heterosexual life and culture. Although there were other well-written books on the subject of sex addiction, Cruise Control was necessary primarily because gay culture as a whole views things like life-long pair bonding, monogamy, and casual sex differently than most heterosexuals. So, needless to say, gay men often found it difficult fully identify with the sexual addiction self-help literature then available. As it turns out, the book sold extremely well, so much so that in 2013 I published an updated version, taking into account the many tech-driven advances that currently affect gay male sex and love addicts.

Meanwhile, I have waited (somewhat impatiently) for the right person to come along and write a similar book focused on lesbian women. My hope was that a colleague would set herself to the task, seeing the need and stepping up to meet it. Happily, Dr. Lauren Costine eventually took on this task, providing us with the recently published book, Lesbian Love Addiction: Understanding the Urge to Merge and How to Heal When Things Go Wrong. Since publication, I’ve been able to interview Dr. Costine about the book and her process, and I am pleased to share her responses with you here.

What prompted you to write Lesbian Love Addiction?

A couple of things, actually. First, I am in recovery from lesbian love addiction myself. It was hard to get sober from this addiction but I was finally able to do it, and writing this book was in part a catharsis for me. Second, I was starting to write a book on the lesbian psyche (this will be my next book), but during that process I was approached by you, after you’d written Cruise Control, and you said to me that a book on lesbian sex and love addiction needed to be written. I knew in an instant that I was the one to write it. I jumped on the idea, and Lesbian Love Addiction was begun.

Can you talk a bit about lesbian love addiction in general – what it looks like, what the symptoms are, etc.?

There are many symptoms and three different styles of love addiction. First up are the true love addicts.

  • These women fall in love easily and quickly without really knowing the other woman.

  • They are addicted to the way falling in love makes them feel, more specifically to the feel-good chemicals, such as dopamine and oxytocin, emitted in the beginning stages of romance between women.

  • They have a sudden need to spend all their time with their new love, often moving in together within a couple of dates or months.

  • They have difficulty setting boundaries, losing their sense of self once in a relationship. Sometimes they stop taking care of themselves to better fit into their new partner’s life. They lose touch with their own friends, family, self-care, and personal interests.

  • They have a pattern of falling for women who are perpetually unavailable, physically and/or emotionally, and they have their heart broken over and over again.

  • They jump into one relationship after another to avoid being alone.

Next we have love avoidant women.

  • These women are addicted to the seducing and chasing. They get high from pursuing other women. They are the Romeos and Casanovas of the lesbian world.

  • They are addicted to the high of falling in love.

  • They are afraid of authentic intimacy, and consequently they distance themselves emotionally once the honeymoon period ends.

  • They feel emotionally smothered by their partners once the honeymoon is over.

  • They find fault, criticizing and blaming in order to create the distance that makes them feel safe.

Lastly we have love ambivalent women.

  • These women have love addict characteristics in one relationship and love avoidant characteristics in the next.

  • They vacillate between love addict and love avoidant behaviors within a relationship.

  • They are either lightly or deeply ambivalent about staying with their partner, and they doubt or fear their ability to commit. This is a pattern found in most love addicted relationships

In what ways do lesbian love addicts differ from other love addicted women (or even love addicted men)?

There are four major differences, three of which are related to our hormones, our female brains, and attachment issues with our mothers. The fourth is related to lesbian-phobia.

First of all, women emit oxytocin and dopamine when falling in love (both of which are amazingly feel-good natural chemicals that get us to connect and bond). Men do not emit oxytocin in the same way. Therefore, when two women get together the “oxyfest” is beyond intoxicating.

Women are also wired to connect to others, because this improves our chances of surviving in hostile environments. In other words, we seek relationships because our brains are wired to need them. This explains, in part, why two women might be more inclined to connect more quickly than men traditionally do. This insight helps us understand how, following directions from the brain, lesbians suffering from love addiction slip into merging behaviors that are destructive later on. They commit to each other too quickly, move in too fast, and find themselves in relationships they didn’t expect once the honeymoon is over.

Next, attachment theory tells us that most people fall into one of three main categories: secure, anxious, or avoidant. Our earliest experiences of bonding with our mother or caregiver end up imprinting patterns of relating on each of us. The extent to which those relationships developed – or were interrupted or perhaps absent – affect the ways we attach to and connect with others, and influence how we behave in romantic relationships in adulthood. Lesbians, being naturally female-centric, are deeply impacted by our relationships with our mothers and their style of loving and relating to us. This deeply affects our romantic relationships later on.

Lastly we have lesbian-phobia to deal with. The struggle for equality is still young, and whether a lesbian is aware of it or not there is residual trauma resulting from living in a world that values heterosexuality above all else. For lesbians, this trauma is compounded by sexism and misogyny. To describe the unique set of issues lesbians must deal with, namely homophobia and misogyny, I have developed the term lesbian-phobia. This trauma simply adds to the already unique issues facing two women, as discussed above.

Does the book also address sexual addiction issues? Are sex and love addiction often intertwined with this population?

The book does address sex addiction when it intertwines with love addiction, but because most lesbians are drawn to an emotional connection when being sexual, sex addiction is not as big an issue as love addiction. Women’s brains are wired to connect. We definitely love sex, but we are more turned on when an emotional connection and sex are happening at the same time.

How can lesbian love addicts best go about the process of healing? Do they face difficulties that other love addicts do not?

The healing process from love addiction can prove to be one of the most difficult things a lesbian will ever have to endure. It starts with the withdrawal process. Symptoms of withdrawal usually manifest in the following ways:

  • Cravings to act out irrationally with love addicted behaviors

  • Inexplicable aches and pains

  • Physical illness or exhaustion

  • Switching to new addictions

  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns

  • Overwhelming self-doubt

  • Desperation and fear

  • Feeling like you are going crazy

  • Suicidal thoughts or impulses

  • Desire to isolate

  • Obsessive thinking or fantasizing about the woman you gave up

  • Sadness, despair, or depression

  • Emotional highs and lows

  • Irritability, anger, or rage

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, as one day withdrawing will be over and you’ll feel like a new person. In order to recover from love addiction, it is imperative to commit to the process of healing. This means experiencing the withdrawals and avoiding the urge to return to your partner. Once the psychological separation from toxic behaviors and ways of thinking is made, a new person with a strong internal sense of liberation will step in. Allowing yourself to go through, not around, the pain is the essential part of healing. Avoidance leads to repetitive behaviors; true insight comes from the ability to stop, notice, and experience what is taking place, no matter how painful.

The biggest obstacle that many lesbian love addicts face is not finding lesbian-affirmative support. There are not enough therapists and 12-step programs out there that understand the unique issues of the lesbian psyche.

So you’re saying that some therapists, treatment programs, and 12-step sex/love addiction recovery groups more lesbian friendly than others. Why do you think that is?

Most therapists are not trained in lesbian-affirmative psychotherapy. The advent of the LGBT Specialization at Antioch University Los Angeles (AULA) is helping to ameliorate this problem by training budding therapists on how to work in a healing and consciously competent way, but AULA’s program is unusual. New York City and other parts of the East Coast are also relatively LGBTQ-affirmative, but other parts of the country are not. As a matter of fact, most Masters in Psychology programs’ human sexuality courses – a basic core requirement – are heterosexually oriented, barely touching on all the other sexual orientations and gender identities that humans possess.

How can lesbian women find the best possible recovery setting?

Usually, they can go to their local LGBT Center; they typically have resources and support groups that are lesbian friendly. Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) tends to be very open-minded and nonjudgmental, so I feel confident recommending that group to help. Plus, read my book. It is the only book out there that addresses lesbian love addiction in an affirmative way.

What are the things you most want people to know about yourself and/or your book?

I really want people to know how much I love my lesbian community. I am honored to do my small part in helping heal the areas of our psyches that need healing. I also want people to know that I have walked this path before – I know what it is like to suffer from love addiction – to struggle with a lack of self-confidence, low self-esteem, and zero self-love. I want people to understand that this book is born from my own walk down the path of lesbian love addiction, and that I never stop working on myself – that I believe, as does one of my favorite Buddhist teachers, Pema Chodron, that we are all a work in progress, but with enough courage, resilience, and a desire to live a better life anyone can heal from this addiction and start experiencing authentic feelings of liberation, presence, and happiness.

*Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S is Senior Vice President of National Clinical Development for Elements Behavioral Health. In this capacity, he has established and overseen addiction and mental health treatment programs for more than a dozen high-end treatment facilities, including Promises Treatment Centers in Malibu and Los Angeles, The Ranch in rural Tennessee, and The Right Step in Texas. An internationally acknowledged clinician and author, he has served as a subject expert on the intersection of human intimacy and digital technology for multiple media outlets including The Oprah Winfrey Network, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, and CNN, among many others. He is the author of several highly regarded books, including Cruise Control: Understanding Sex Addiction in Gay Men. For more information please visit website,

When we look at how far we have progressed in the West when it comes to LGBTQ rights and equality issues, it’s easy to think we are making great strides. Of course with the major news of the US Supreme Court ruling that gay marriage is now legal in all 50 states, the repeal of the discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell‘ law in the military in 2011, and in other countries like Ireland which held the world’s largest referendum vote in favor of gay marriage, we have to acknowledge that the world is changing to become a more inclusive and equal place on many important fronts.

But on other levels there is still a lack of focus on intersectionality. When we look at the majority of Hollywood movies, we see hetero sexual love stories being played out on screen as if that is what every person needs to ascribe and aspire to. It’s only with the introduction of shows like ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and recent films such as ‘Freeheld’ and ‘Carol’ where we have seen a much more deeper exploration of gay relationships, specifically lesbian partnerships.

Why is this important to show in pop culture? Because like every heterosexual relationship, every gay, lesbian, transgender and queer relationship comes with its own set of struggles, obstacles and issues it deals with. But where do lesbian couples go when they want expert advice or professional help that is geared toward understanding the LGBTQ community. Sadly, it is hard to find, according to Dr. Lauren Costine who is a clinical psychologist and activist living in Los Angeles.

Dr. Costine played a major role in the development of one of the first LGBTQ Specialization Clinical Psychology courses in the entire country, which is taught at Antioch University. Aside from dedicated her work to breaking new ground in the LGBTQ community when it comes to psychology, she has put her expertise together in her first book titled Lesbian Love Addiction: Understanding the Urge to Merge, and How To Heal When Things Go Wrong.

In it she is debunking the myth that the LGBTQ community has won the battle against repression, by pointing out a few key facts and expanding on them. For example, people in the LGBTQ community seek therapy in greater numbers than their heterosexual counterparts, the LGBTQ population has more issues with chemical dependency, depression, and anxiety, and lesbians have higher rates of alcohol and drug dependence compared to women with male sex partners. In addition to this, love addiction books for heterosexuals have experienced great success. Books have brought much needed information and healing to gay men who suffer from sex addiction, but these books don’t help lesbians.

Dr. Costine’s new book addresses the problems at hand, and the many steps necessary in order to heal from the centuries of repression the LGBTQ community has faced, with love addiction being an issue of major concern.

Since we are a site dedicated to feminism, intersectionality and understanding the struggles of all women, we spoke exclusively with Dr. Costine and got a more in-depth look at her work, her life, and why she is so passionate about the message she has for love-addicted lesbians.

Tell us about your background, studies, and how you got to where you are today?

I grew up in a white, well-educated, upper middle class conservative family in a small New Jersey town. I never felt like I quite fit as if I was always a bit of an outsider- I didn’t realize till I worked in my own lesbianphobia (homophobia and misogyny combined) that those feelings came from being different that most of the people around me. I first got exposed to the idea of becoming a therapist when I got into therapy myself and then got sober 1 year later. That was 17 years ago. It was my first wake up call – my “Ah ha” moment. I finally saw I wanted to pursue a life that was full of meaning and about helping people. I have never looked back since. I went back to grad school – eventually got my PhD and then my Clinical Psychology license.

You have just released your first book ‘Lesbian Love Addiction,’ can you tell us what it is about and what prompted you to write this?

I am actually in recovery for Love Addiction myself – that was my second wake up call — and as a lesbian when I was reading all the love addiction books out there I found myself frustrated that they were all heterosexually focused – that none discussed even one lesbian story. Soon after that a colleague, Rob Weiss LCSW, talked to me about the need for a book on sex and love addition for lesbians – I knew in that moment I needed to write that book. Several years after struggling with my own love addiction, getting sober, into recovery and feeling better than I ever have had in my life I started to write it or rather it wrote me – meaning it came from a place deep down inside me that had this story to tell. This book arose directly from that place. It was ultimately an extremely healing experience.

You are aiming to debunk the myth that LGBTQ has won the battle against repression, what are some standout factors readers need to know?

While marriage equality is an incredibly important step in obtaining equal rights, visibility and acceptance on a collective and societal level it is the beginning of our community’s healing process. Thankfully it is the basis from which we can now explore our next steps because our resources (time and money) don’t have to be funneled into securing this basic human right.

We see a lot of equality laws being passed, the most notable of which was the Supreme Court Ruling in June 2015 allowing gay marriage in all 50 states, and not too long ago, the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’. These have become groundbreaking laws in American history, but what are some areas we need desperately still need to see equality in?

Bullying. LGBTQ-Foster youth, homeless youth living on the streets because their families have kicked them out for being LGBTQ, transgender equality.

One of the issues you focus on is the fact that the LGBTQ population has more drug and alcohol dependency than other groups. Can you briefly give us an explanation of why this is happening?

Heterocentrism, heteronormtivity and LGBTQ phobias are traumatizing.

All people grow up learning what type of sexuality and gender expression their family and society itself deem “acceptable” –which is patriarchal ideology, heterosexuality and binary gender roles and expressions. When an LGBTQ person comes to the realization that we are LGBTorQ we have to grapple with losing heterosexual privilege, patriarchal privilege if you are a lesbian or transwoman, being unaccepted by society as a whole and usually by our families we well.

At the same time, if we are fortunate enough to get find their way to the LGBTQ community one gains connection to a community that is wonderful in multiple ways – creative, sensitive, resilient, strong, and psychology minded. This gets us through the tough times and allows us to thrive against great odds but trauma does not feel good – it causes suffering – drugs and alcohol are an quick solution to numbing that pain — at least temporarily. It certainly quiets the heternormative and LGBTQphobic voices that play around in our heads.

You helped create one of the country’s first clinical psychology courses specializing in LGBTQ issues. Why it is important that this kind of study is offered everywhere?

Therapists are some of the kindest and most well meaning people on the planet –most of us get into this field because we truly want to help people but most of the psychology schools out there are heteronormative and in some instances quite LGBTQ phobic. This is usually unconscious. It is not intentional but people who are in the privileged position do not realize that their classes and psychological messages are not inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities and those who are LGBTQ might not feel empowered enough (because of their trauma) to ask for inclusion or they might not even see it.

It is really important that anyone who is training to become a mental health worker be learn how to work with the LGBTQ population that is not only accepting but affirmative and educational on how to heal our unique traumas and liberate and empower our authentic selves.

What are some key areas you focus on in terms of relationship psychology for lesbians specifically, in relation to your book?

Lesbian love addiction is basically an intimacy disorder. To understand what I mean by this I focus on 5 key areas, because the female brain and hormones are designed to connect when two women fall in love the urge to merge (and never be apart again) can be more intoxicating than heroin for a heroin addict.

That our attachment styles – determined by our relationship with our core caretakers – usually our mothers – affects how we feel and behave in adult romantic relationships so whether we are anxious, avoidant or more ambivalent. This style comes out in the relationship once the honeymoon period has worn off (which is 2 years max for all human beings). This style presents very differently post honeymoon and can be a big shock for the newly attached partner who thought she had fallen in love with her ideal soulmate.

How growing up lesbian in a heterocentric and LGBTQ phobic is traumatizing and affects our self-esteem and feelings of self-worth so once in a relationship we often compromise ourselves in order to avoid feelings of abandonment, grief, loss and failure. This leads to resentment and conflict if not understood.

Lesbian love addictions falls into 2 distinct categories – the love addict (more anxious) and the love avoidant (more distant). They usually find each other and fall in love. The love addict feels abandoned while the avoidant feels smothered. This can start a spiral that often spins out of control involving breakups, makeups, and then breakups again. Dramatic and uncontrollable – it makes both women sick and miserable until one or both women break up the relationship for good which then starts the withdrawal process.

Withdrawal from the woman you loved while also stopping love addiction behaviors (chronic back and forth, staying despite abuse, jumping from one relationship to another, stalking your ex, avoiding intimacy once the honeymoon phase is over etc) can one of the hardest things a lesbian can go through but is an imperative part of the healing process.

The keys to success are stopping any and all love addicted and love avoidant behaviors and then beginning the road to a relationship with oneself before embarking on another love relationship.

How can feminists be better allies to people in the LGTBTQ community today?

By getting back to doing what they do best – taking action against the patriarchy and heternormative ideals and systems. Fighting the political fight, organizing, marching, educating through social media that LGBTQ people are still not safe – they are still bullied in our schools, transfolks still fear for their lives, that certain areas of this country are not LGBTQ friendly and that is not ok, and most importantly that our thousands of years of institutionalized trauma needs to be healed and that LGBTQ-affirmative psychology – feminists have the opportunity to play a fundamental role in making the fight for true LGBTQ equality does not end with the right to marry.

What do you hope readers will take away most from your book?

That there is tremendous hope here. While many lesbians suffer from love addiction it is not a death sentence. If one gets the help they need, is willing to do the work it takes to heal from this addiction and spends quality time developing a healthy relationship with themselves – they can and will be able to create a long lasting healthy and loving relationship with another woman.

Finally, what makes you a powerful woman?

I really think the biggest reason is because I have worked on my inner world for over 19 years – in a really integrative way. I have worked the 12-steps when needed, years of talk therapy and lesbian-affirmative psychotherapy, 9 years of grad school, experiential therapy, somatic work, studied eastern philosophies, thousand of hours of reading and researching on all types of psychological approaches so that I could find my voice, learn how to be assertive while staying sensitive, authentically confident and internally liberated from the toxic shame and internalized lesbianphobia I used to feel about myself from the traumas I suffered.

I still have a loud, obnoxious and relentless inner critic but I know how to soothe her now – that has made an incredible difference in my life. I live how I want to live – make no apologies to anyone for it and feel empowered to be my authentic self on a daily basis.


You can purchase a copy of Dr. Lauren Costine’s book ‘Lesbian Love Addiction: Understanding the Urge to Merge, and How To Heal When Things Go Wrong’ by clicking here. You can also learn more about the work she is doing in the LGBTQ and Women’s Empowerment spaces by visiting her website. If you want to hear more of her expertise in the field of psychology and how it relates to the LGBTQ community she has a wonderful Youtube Channel where you can find a range of videos featuring Dr. Costine discussing everything from religion, history, and useful tools to implement in your everyday life.

Written by Girl Talk HQ A Daily News Blog Dedicated To Female Empowerment & Inspiration For Millennial Women

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